Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kenyan bus operators strike against the police

The decay of the legitimacy of the Kenyan state is being illustrated by a recent strike by its public transportation operators, called Matatus, who are highly irregular entrepreneurs. They are protesting their being shaken down by Kenya's notoriously corrupt traffic police.

Last week’s strike by public transport operators was yet another stark reminder of what happens when a country allows corruption to rule the roost in any of its organs.

At some point in time, a nation comes to a moment of reawakening when it must confront the tragedy of its shame.

Matatus went on strike over complaints of “police harassment”, a euphemism for demand of bribes. Without an alternative public transport system, thousands of commuters, including school going children, were stranded and precious man hours lost.

Blame irascible matatu crews and a traffic police brigade with many corrupt faces in its ranks. The two are joined in the hip by their singular lack of public accountability and contempt for ethic duty.

The matatu industry, an avenue for investment and employment for many, represents the best and worst of the true spirit of enterprise. Self-regulated by often competing interests, the industry has largely degenerated into a by-word for disorder and indiscipline – a Kenyan wild west.

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